Jason Mercer from Drift sent me an email.

Overall, it’s decent.

It’s the wrong email address and not our company name.

However, it’s not terrible. It includes personalization, a concise value prop, and an easy way to book a call. It probably gets a decent prospecting rate.

This is not a tear down. The email is fine. I <3 me some Drift. I’m a big believer in gate-less content. And think Drift would be the perfect compliment for many businesses.

But not us. Not now. And probably never.

Here’s why.

1. Clients > strangers

Messaging is a tactic. And not all tactics are good.

Chat software itself isn’t expensive. Staffing chat software is. To do it effectively, it requires someone, somewhere, to be manning it (or, I guess, womanning it) 24/7/365.

It also sets a dangerous precedence. It rightfully gives visitors the expectation of immediate service.

Multiple studies confirm that you have the best chance of closing a lead if you respond within five minutes or less:

(image source)

Which means… what? Someone needs to be ready and waiting to field chat messages. And they better not use the restroom or go to lunch and risk missing that five-minute window.

Or else…

dun dun dun

Chat requires rushed reactivity.

That’s not ideal for a culture that thrives on long, quiet, periods of focus. I don’t even want our writers on Slack if they’re working. Writers also have zero email expectations. Clients aren’t allowed to go directly to them in most cases.

Because the work is what matters at the end of the day.

If people have a problem with that, it’s OK.

I have no interest in working with every client. I just want the best ones.

And that’s where product vs. service companies veer wildly. ‘Cause closing an account means our relationship is just starting, not ending.

2. Forms are still better at qualifying, filtering, and systemizing

The email above mentions a 13-field form. The reference has a negative connotation meant as a ‘hurdle’ to keeping out more leads.

But that’s exactly the point.

We don’t have time for tire kickers. We freely publish pricing on our site. The process and work samples, too. A long form is used as a final speed bump to weed out those who aren’t serious, haven’t already viewed our samples, or aren’t ready with a budget in hand.

No budget? No urgency? No conversation.

Customize form confirmations with conditional logic.

Come back whenever you’re ready.

Friction in B2B transactions is a good thing. Just ask John.

Clients know exactly how to get a hold of us whenever they want. Otherwise, our primary concern is the quality of their work.

And not the expectations or inconvenience of random website visitors.

Forms allow you to pump the brakes long enough to make sure your internal processes and team are ready to respond.

True, it means there might be less leads overall. True, it means responses are slower.

However, it also means that our 16-point form follow-up sequence will allow us to make a greater impact with the few who do count.

Form follow-up sequence.

Speaking of…

3. Many Most cold, inbound service leads just aren’t that good

The above email uses MongoDB as the aspirational example to live up to.

Mongodb Drift messaging example

70% more leads? Sign me up.

If… like MongoDB, we were an f-ing massive, product-driven company. Which, we’re not. Which, we’re basically the complete opposite as a small service one.

Context matters.

The best service clients (read: highest margin & least intrusive) often come through personal referrals and relationships. Second best is usually some targeted-sales approach. (Like this example!)

But the inbound marketing fallacy that no one wants to address is that results aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be, because:

❌ It’s expensive as hell (in soft costs, not hard)

❌ It often takes years to see tangible results when you’re starting from scratch and competing against sophisticated teams with a head start, bigger budgets, and more brainpower

❌ You gotta fish through a river of shit to find a few decent salmons

Harsh, I know. But that’s how it goes.

Decision makers — like C-suite execs and their counterparts — spend half of every workday in meetings. The other half? Meeting with direct reports.

You know what they’re not doing?

❌ Sitting on another lousy webinar.

❌ Or rubbing their hands together, eagerly anticipating to chat it up with you.

Content exists to get people in the door. It can aid purchases if you do it right. But it’s often a long, slow slog unless you’re actively targeting certain types of companies.

The more expensive your widget and the more consultative the sales cycle, the worse your inbound close rate becomes. Conversely, the more effective person-to-person selling becomes. Phone calls convert 10x the rate of site leads, converting as high as 65% (compared to ~1-2% of site visits).

But it’s not necessarily that one kind of lead is better than the other.

Ultimately, you want to get all leads on the phone or in person. It’s just that inbound ones aren’t always qualified properly, and allowed to pass through to sales too quickly when they’re not anywhere close to making a purchasing decision.

A point that’s negatively affected by #2 above if you ditch forms entirely.

Conclusion

This isn’t a bashing post. It’s a thinking one.

Too often, Meatball Sundae’s reign supreme. We run from gated content to skyscrapers to no forms without ever stopping to think about why we’re doing any of this stuff.

And this is the BIG problem with the bad content you read everyday.

You know, all of those shitty tactical posts that re-hash the same surface-level advice:

“Oh, yeah, OF COURSE tactic XYZ will lift conversions instantly.”

At best, it’s foolish. And at worst, destructively distracting.

There is no such thing as black and white in marketing.

It’s all a bunch of dirty, kinky, sweaty, smelly Shades of Grey.

Codeless - SaaS Content Creators

Brad Smith

Founder of Codeless. Content highlighted by The New York Times, Business Insider, The Next Web, and several dozen more.